Driving on hard shoulder of M4 'smart motorway' section near Hambrook to be banned

March 12 2020
Driving on hard shoulder of M4 'smart motorway' section near Hambrook to be banned

DRIVING on the M4 hard shoulder during rush hour is set to be banned under a shake-up of ‘smart motorways’.

The section of motorway between Hambrook and the Almondsbury Interchange is one of several around the country where, during busy periods, the hard shoulder becomes an extra lane to ease congestion.

Electronic signs indicate to drivers when they can and cannot use the hard shoulder to travel.

It is part of the smart motorways scheme, which also includes variable speed limits, enforced by cameras which are switched on 24 hours a day.

Today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that the policy of using the hard shoulder as an extra lane for traffic will be abolished because of safety concerns.

He also said a radar-based system which spots stationary vehicles will be installed on all smart motorways within three years.

The announcement comes after analysis of accident figures found that overall, smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways in most areas, particularly for incidents relating to speeding, tailgating, rapid changes of speed and drifting off the carriageway.

However the risk of a collision between a moving and stationary vehicle was higher on smart motorways, where there have been 38 fatalities nationally over the past five years.

Mr Shapps said: “I’ve been greatly concerned by a number of deaths on smart motorways, and moved by the accounts of families who’ve lost loved ones in these tragic incidents.

I commissioned an urgent stocktake of smart motorways to provide a clearer picture of their safety and make recommendations on next steps. I envisaged it to be swift, but during the course of our investigations a complex picture emerged – which warranted further work.

That work has now concluded and overall, evidence shows that in most ways smart motorways are as safe as or safer than conventional ones.

But I am clear that there is more we can do to raise the bar on smart motorway safety. The extended package of measures I have set out will help rebuild public confidence in our motorway network and ensure that safety is firmly at the heart of the programme.”

In making the announcement the Department for Transport described the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ system as “confusing”.